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Clipper Vacations to Victoria BC for Gin and Torte at the Fairmont Empress

Whether you’re a local to Seattle or visiting the city, a quick getaway to Victoria BC is easy thanks to the Victoria Clipper. The passenger-only ferry operates year-round with daily service so daytrips and overnight stays are efficient and adventurous. You’ll enjoy a smooth cruise through Puget Sound, into The Strait of Juan de Fuca, and disembark in downtown Victoria’s Inner Harbour. From there, you’ll be within walking distance to shops, eateries, and stunning architecture. The Clipper offers an on-board cafe and comfortable seating, and the less than three hour cruise provides incredible views of seaside towns, mountain ranges, and—if you’re lucky—a glimpse of marine wildlife at play. During my cruise to Victoria, I spotted several dolphins. On my return to Seattle, I saw a few whales breaching in The Strait of Juan de Fuca.  

Upon arriving in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, cabs and shuttles are available for any excursions you have in mind, though I enjoyed the leisurely stroll along Belleville Street. This is where you’ll find BC’s parliament building, so it’s worth exploring and snapping a few photographs. The sprawling lawn is home to a number of sculptures and memorials, while the building showcases incredible architecture. All of this is open to the public and free guided tours are available.  

Just around the corner on Government Street, and easily walkable from Inner Harbour, my destination was the Fairmont Empress—the iconic hotel visible anywhere along the waterfront. With its recent renovations, The Empress is more impressive than ever and provides a luxurious retreat with waterfront views, fine dining, and pampering amenities like Willow Stream Spa. Those traveling with family will want to take a dip in the indoor heated swimming pool or indulge in kid-friendly castle luxuries like Prince and Princess Afternoon Tea.

I was delighted to time my visit with the launch of two new additions to The Empress menus. Partnering with Victoria Distillers, The Empress mixology team has created a premium gin that uses seven botanicals and has a color-changing presence. The signature 1908 Cocktail is light and refreshing, with a hint of South Asian pea flower, and offers a nod to the year Fairmont Empress opened more than a century ago. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll want to try the Empress Torte. Debuting earlier this month, and available in the Lobby Lounge or Q Restaurant, the signature Empress Torte was developed by pastry chef AJ Thalakkat and is topped with a crown replicating what Queen Elizabeth II wore. Custom chocolate developed especially for this new treat is what makes the Empress Torte so divine. With layers of rich, smooth chocolate and just a hint of honey lingering, you’ll want to order an extra slice to go with the house teas provided in your Fairmont Empress suite.

My stay at Fairmont Empress was relaxing and rejuvenating. My suite was well stocked with an assortment of Fairmont teas, along with a coffee maker, and my room had an incredible waterfront view where I could watch boats and ferries come and go with a panoramic sunset backdrop. I loved the luxurious Rose 31 spa toiletries from LE LABO and the plush bathrobe and towels. The impeccable service throughout the property, paired with an unbeatable location within easy walking distance from Victoria Clipper, made this a memorable getaway.

Lori A. May is a Seattle-based travel writer. Follow her on Twitter at @loriamay.

Photo Credits: CT Shier

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